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How do you tell if a cat loves you?

4 ways to tell if your cat loves you

Of course I love you. Photo: Manja Vitolic/Unsplash

Even the most devoted cat owners wonder at some point, perhaps waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, whether their cat really loves them. Dog people like to smugly point out dogs’ long history as humankind’s best friend.

But research shows cats’ reputation as a cold and aloof pet is undeserved. Because of their evolutionary ancestry, domestic cats are, by their nature, more independent than dogs. The wild ancestors of our cats didn’t live in social groups as canines do. However, during the process of domestication, cats developed the ability to form social relationships not just with other cats, but also with people.

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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Ray D’Arcy Show, the show pays a visit to Ireland’s first dedicated cat hospital in Cork

While they may not rely upon people to feel safe as dogs do, many cats show affection towards their guardians and seem to highly value the company of their human companions. Their attachment to humans is partly influenced by their experiences of being handled by people as a kitten.

Cats behave towards humans in the same way that they respond to their feline friends, so the secret of whether your cat feels bonded to you lies in their behaviour.

Look out for scenting

The ability to communicate with other cats over long distances and when no longer physically present was an advantage to their wild ancestors. Our pet cats have retained this «supersense» and rely heavily on this form of communication .

Kitten with its tail up

In particular, cats use scent to identify members of their social group or family, by sharing a group scent profile. Cats have scent glands on their flanks, head and around their ears, and often rub their heads against people and objects that are familiar and comforting.

Does your cat rub its head or side against your legs? The soft sensation you feel against your calves is actually your cat identifying you as a friend and is a huge compliment.

Watch how they greet you

One of the most obvious signs that your beloved pet is fond of you, is the way that your cat greets you. When cats greet members of their social group they show signals to indicate friendship and a desire to move closer. Cats also show these signals to humans.

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A tail held in the upright flagpole position shows a friendly intention (the feline equivalent of a wave), indicating familiarity, trust, and affection. Some cats also use an upright question mark shaped tail to greet someone they like, or to motion that they want to play.

Cats sometimes intertwine their tails as a sign of friendship and the human equivalent of this is to wrap their tail around your calf.

Rolling over and exposing their vulnerable under belly is another gesture that a cat has ultimate trust in you. However cats prefer to be petted on the head and neck area, so this is not usually a request for a belly rub.

Owner pats cat as it rubs against their legs

Attempts to stroke a cat’s belly will often result in a hasty retreat, or even claws. The chirrup or trill greeting is a melodious sound that cats make when saying hello to preferred individuals. So if your cat sings to you in this way, be assured they are pleased to see you.

That familiar feeling when your cat hits the back of your knee can also be a sign that they feel an extremely close bond to you. The feline version of a high-five, the head bump is usually saved for a cat’s closest feline friends and most trusted humans.

Look for blinks

Your cat might also be secretly signalling their affection in the way they look at you. When cats encounter strange humans or other cats they don’t know, they usually greet them with an unblinking stare. But they are more likely to slowly blink at cats they have a good relationship with.

Cat shows belly

Research suggests slow blinks are associated with a positive emotional state and can be a sign of trust, contentment and affection, similar to a human smile. If you wish to return the compliment, blink and your cat might blink back. This is nice a way to bond with your cat if they aren’t keen on being touched

They get up close

Cats are very protective of their personal space and don’t like unwelcome guests to invade it. If a cat allows you to get close to them, that suggests a close bond, particularly where the contact is frequent or long lasting.

Curling up on your lap for a nap is a sign of deep trust. Grooming only happens between cats with a warm relationship, so licking your hand or face can be a show of endearment, even though those barbed tongues may not feel all that gentle.

Emily Blackwell is a Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Bristol. This article was originally published by The Conversation.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ

5 Signs That Your Cat Loves You

It’s a common misconception that cats don’t love their parents: that they’re selfish jerks just in it for the free ride and yummy treats, and don’t actually care either way about your continued existence.

This myth could not be farther from the truth. Contrary to their antisocial reputation, cats are actually very social animals who do enjoy having friends, both human and feline.

The misconception may have arisen because cats simply don’t communicate in the same way humans or even dogs do. Thanks to domestication, dogs have (to some extent) learned to speak our language — while cats, on the other hand, barely even qualify as domestic. They’re essentially still wild animals that graciously allow us to live in their territory!

So when you’re looking for affection from your finicky feline, remember: it’s up to you to learn to speak Cat. And once you can recognize the signs that your cat loves you , you may realize that Whiskers is not nearly as standoffish as you thought!

The Slow Blink

As humans, we tend to be loud and use big, obvious gestures when we communicate. Cats are far more subtle — but if you know what to look for, your cat’s body language will make it clear when she likes you!

Case in point? The Slow Blink .

Like many animals, cats typically perceive direct, unblinking eye contact as a threat. But by utilizing the power of the Slow Blink, cats are able to send a silent message: “Hey, don’t worry. I like you.”

Cats use the Slow Blink to send a clear, friendly signal to anyone who they are on good terms with — which includes both other cats and the humans your cat deems worthy of affection.

Famous feline behaviorist Jackson Galaxy has helped raised awareness of “The Slow Blink,” calling it “the cat I Love You.”

To perform a Slow Blink and finally speak to Whiskers in the language of cats, simply do the following:

  1. Meet your cat’s gaze with a soft, relaxed expression.
  2. Slowly close your eyes. Keep them closed for 2 seconds.
  3. Slowly open your eyes again. Gaze at your kitty lovingly.

Once you Slow Blink at your cat, the odds are good that Whiskers will do it back! And a beautiful, silent moment of understanding will pass between you two: “I love you, cat.” “I love you too, human.”

Friendly Physical Contact

Contrary to their “aloof loner” reputation, many cats are extremely social cuddlebugs!

If your cat enjoys physical affection, and feels safe and comfortable around you, one of the most telling signs that your cat loves you is if they initiate friendly physical contact with you.

Loving touches from your kitty cat include but are not limited to: rubbing up against you, licking or grooming you, and “kneading” on or near you. Kneading is a behavior kittens do while nursing, and as adults, cats will knead as a sign of relaxation and contentment.

Your cat may also sleep on your lap (or your chest, or your back, or your shoulders, or…) to show that they are fond of your presence. And don’t worry, you’re not just a warm body to them — a cat won’t sleep on or near a human they don’t trust!

Finally, one of the surest indications that your cat considers you part of their crew is the classic headbutt or “head bonk.” Think of it like a kitty fist bump. It’s how your cat says, “You and me? We’re cool.”

Being Near You

Many cats crave physical contact and can’t seem to get enough chin scratches. But others…well, they just aren’t as into that.

The fact is, not all cats are lap cats. Cats are individuals, just like we are, and there are many cats who don’t enjoy being petted or touched.

But, don’t let it break your heart! Just because your cat isn’t touchy-feely doesn’t mean they hate you. That cat who comes into the living room and quietly lays down nearby while you’re watching TV, not initiating any interaction with you, perhaps not even acknowledging you? Guess what: odds are, she does love you. If she didn’t, she’d be in another room!

Introverted cats are what’s known as “Nearby Cats.” These are the cats who show they love you by pretending it’s just a coincidence that they are in the same room as you 90% of the time.

“Oh, you’re going to the living room?” the Nearby Cat says. “I was just going there myself. What are the odds? It has nothing to do with you, of course…”

If your cat follows you around the house and willingly chooses to be near you — even if all they do is sit on the other side of the room and stare at you unsettlingly — that’s an indication that your cat wants to be in your presence. She may be too proud to come down from her perch for a cuddle, sure, but deep down in her furry little heart, she trusts you and feels safer with you nearby.

Similarly, this is the cat who seems uninterested in you all day, but nevertheless sleeps at the foot of your bed every night. “What?” he may say. “This is just the comfiest spot in the house! Oh, you’re sleeping here, too? I had no idea.”

Suuuure, Whiskers. Sure. *wink*

Displaying Their Belly

Your cat may swagger around the house like a lion or tiger, the undisputed king of his domain…but, truth be told, our little kitty buddies aren’t actually at the top of the food chain.

Domestic cats (and their ancestors, the African wildcat) are what’s known as “mesopredators” — as in, they are both predators and prey! To rodents, songbirds and small reptiles, your cat is a terrifying predator. But in the eyes of coyotes, wolves and eagles, your fur-baby is lunch!

All of which is to say: domestic cats are cautious about who they can be vulnerable with, painfully aware that they are not , in fact, invincible lions.

That’s why you should appreciate the high honor that has been bestowed upon you when your cat chooses to roll over and expose their belly in your presence. This is a very vulnerable and trusting position for your cat to be in; if you were a predator, your cat would basically be serving themselves up on a platter!

If your cat rolls onto their back and displays their belly to you, that’s a sure-fire sign that your cat trusts you with their life — literally. And if that’s not true love, we don’t know what is.

Important Note : Many pet lovers are familiar with dog behavior, where an exposed belly clearly means, “Pet me!” But it’s crucial to remember that your cat is not a dog!

Too many cat parents innocently assume that their kitty wants a belly rub — and then are offended when their cat bites them as a result (a bite which is clearly your cat saying, “Stop that.”)

Your cat’s exposed belly is not an open invitation to be petted. Neither is it a carefully-laid trap, where your cat is just waiting to attack an unsuspecting hand.

Instead, try to see your cat’s fluffy belly for what it really is: an expression of love and trust in you, best admired from a distance!

Friendly Greetings

Finally, one of the surest signs that your cat loves you is if they are just plain happy to see you!

If your cat greets you in a friendly manner, especially when you come home at the end of the day, you can be reasonably sure that you’re important to your cat (and not just as a provider of food).

So, what’s considered a “friendly greeting” in cat-speak? Well, your cat’s tail is one of the best indicators of what mood they’re in. If your cat trots towards you as soon as you walk through the front door with their tail straight up (especially if just the tip of their tail is tipped to the side), that indicates your cat is feeling happy, friendly and affectionate. In other words: “Welcome home!”

Or, perhaps your cat speaks to you in a more literal way: through meowing! Domestic cats are capable of an incredible number of unique vocalizations, and some of them seem to have evolved specifically to build a better relationship with humans.

What we think of as the classic “meow” is actually your cat’s attempt to speak our language! Scientists believe a cat’s meow has that distinctive high-pitched, inquisitive sound because that’s what tugs the most on our human heartstrings.

Kittens meow at their mothers, but once cats reach adulthood, they rarely meow at each other. They do communicate with each other through vocalizations, of course, but the meow — that plaintive, almost pathetic sound we love so much — was developed and perfected just to solicit love and attention from humans.

And there’s no way cats would go through all that effort to earn our love if they didn’t enjoy the relationship, too!

Cats don’t express their feelings in quite the same way humans or even dogs do. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating their affection to us! In fact, if you know what to look for, you’ll see plenty of signs that your cat loves you .

Being physically affectionate with you, greeting you when you come home, treating you to a Slow Blink or even just sitting on the couch with you are all signals that Whiskers uses to say, “I like you, human. You can stay.”

And y’know what? In the minds of most cat parents, that’s close enough!

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